No one has to tell you that many people have been suffering with their mental health during this pandemic. As a graduate student studying professional counseling, I am passionate about ending the stigma of mental illness. During my first year of grad school, my multicultural counseling course allowed me to learn how different cultures view counseling. Many people shame the idea of counseling, seeing mental illness and asking for help as a weakness and an embarrassment to the culture’s community. Some want to seek counseling, but were raised to believe that there is shame in it and are afraid their families would frown upon it.
As Catholics, we often hear Jesus referred to as the “divine physician,” and it’s true! Think about how Jesus healed the leper, rose Lazarus from the dead, and cured the blind man. Since the end of Biblical times, people have reported miraculous healings after praying novenas and going on pilgrimages to sacred sights. All of these healings only emphasize how merciful and powerful our God is. God our Heavenly Father loves us and as His children, He wants to heal us. So, does that mean that Christians should refrain from going to counseling? Can we just “pray it away”? Not so much.
Finding a counselor can be a way that Jesus is healing you. Think about how we are the hands and feet of God here on earth. We believe that God fed the five thousand by multiplying the bread and fish. Yet, we are called to serve the poor and the hungry through soup kitchens and missionary work. We are members of the body of Christ, continuing the work of Jesus here on earth in His name. We can heal the physically sick as doctors and nurses. And in the same manner, we can become counselors and seek counseling. Doing so is not erasing the title of the “divine healer/physician”. In fact, recognizing that God places these people on earth to help us only magnifies who He is!
It’s worth noting that mental and spiritual health are intertwined. Our mental health and spiritual health affect one another. For example, whenever we are feeling anxious or depressed, it can drain us and take away our motivation to pray or even go to Mass. Whenever we are feeling far from the Lord, it can be a contributing factor to feeling anxious or depressed. In fact, it’s been said that spiritual battles such as scrupulosity are linked to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
So, what should you do if you are a Christian who is struggling mentally? First of all, remember that I am just a graduate student and nothing that I am writing is meant to take place of consulting with a licensed mental health professional. Second, recognize that going to a counselor is not against our faith by any means. Third, do your research and begin your search for a counselor. You can use online counseling services, or seek out counselors in your state who are taking clients (remember that several of them are conducting sessions virtually). Be sure to consult with your health care provider and then verify with the office staff that the counselor takes your insurance if you do not want to pay out of pocket. Fourth, do not be afraid to reach out to your pastor or spiritual director. Having spiritual direction during a time of mental struggle is very helpful. Fifth, and perhaps most importantly, do not forget to pray! St. Dymphna is the patron saint of mental health and anxiety. However, while miraculous healings can happen from prayer, praying should not be a replacement for seeking professional help. Lastly, remember that experiencing anxiety or depression is not a sin! Being in a state of anxiety and depression are not things that you can control and are considered mental health and medical issues.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please contact the national suicide hotline: 800-273-8255. If you or someone you know is about to commit suicide, please call 911.
More Catholic Faith and Mental Health Resources
Why You Need Jesus AND a Counselor
Mental health and prayer | Lifeteen
Franciscan University Presents: Mental Health and Faith
The Catholic Therapist – Things That Aren’t Helping Your Mental Health
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